Buddhist Summer Camps For Children
Mandala on the Mountain Dharma Summer Camp
Dharma Rain Zen Center, Portland, OR, (503) 239-4846. August 20-24.
For ages 9 to 13, this camp aims to help kids work on their self-identity within the group and also to cultivate virtue—without forgetting to have lots of fun. The daily activities are a combination of work, play, and practice. In addition to sports, crafts, and other summer camp fun, the kids meditate, chant, and receive age-appropriate dharma teaching. On the last day of camp, the children present to their parents a skit based on what they learned at camp.
Buddhist Children’s Camp at Vajrapani Institute
Vajrapani Institute, P.O. Box 2130, Boulder Creek, CA 95006, (408) 338-6654/7916. August 1-3.
For kids ages 5-12 (children under 8 must be accompanied by a parent), this camp teaches traditional Tibetan meditation practices and Buddhist principles. Children learn about and make altars, stupas, malas, and other related items. Older children, veterans of the camp, work as junior counselors.
Shambhala Sun Camps: Dorje Denma Ling,
Tatamageouch, Nova Scotia, (902) 420-1118.
August 3-8; Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center, 4921 Country Road 68-C, Red Feather Lakes, CO 80545, (970) 881-2184. July 10-20.
Sun Camp, a staple activity of the Shambhala community for fourteen years, emphasizes “meditation in practice,” along with a heavy dose of fun. Camp organizers and alumni describe it as practical training for everyday life - learning how to work with other people in groups and how to handle situations as they arise. The kids (ages 10-16) set up the camp ground at the beginning and break it down at the end. In between, they are involved in the running of the camp (cooking, cleaning, chores). There’s little formal meditation, but walking meditation is one of the daily activities—along with traditional summer camp activities like swimming, campfires, nature walks, and arts and crafts. No parents allowed.
In Nova Scotia, Sun Camp is staffed by adults and older kids (13-16) called “cadets.” They are required to attend the intensive Cadet Command Workshop (July 30- August 3) immediately before the regular Sun Camp.
The following camps incorporate the principles of the Shambhala Sun Camp:
Shotoku Children’s Center (June 14-August 31) at the Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center is a progressive day school designed for children (ages 4-14) whose parents are attending adult programs and retreats. This is not day care; parents spend time with their children.
Nova Scotia Sea School, in its third year, is Sun Camp by the sea, specifically for teenagers. Viewing seamanship as a contemplative practice, the program is more a “seamanship training program” than a course on how to sail. Contact P.O. Box 546, Central CRO, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1P6 Canada, (902) 423-7284.
Shambhala Family Camp is held at the Rocky Mountain Center (June 14-June 21) and in Barnet, Vermont at Karme Choling (July 12-20). Family camp allows parents to practice in the mornings and then brings families together in the afternoon and evening with activities such as games, nature walks, and other camp basics. To register, contact Karme Choling, Rural Route One, Box 3, Barnet, VT 05821, (802) 633-2384.
Also at Karme Choling this summer are Shambhala Training, Level One (May 16-18) and Kyudo Intensive with Kanjuro Shabata Sensei (June 13-15). Both of these programs are for adults and children ages 12 and up. Special meditations and discussion groups are a major part of the Shambhala Training program. The Kyudo workshop is an intensive study of the Zen art of archery.
Buddhist Peace Camps for Children, Families, and Adults
Zen Buddhist Temple of Ann Arbor, MI, (313) 761-6520. August 1-8.
For the first time in its ten-year history, the camp will be held not on temple grounds but at a Quaker-run wildlife sanctuary with a small lake—an ideal setting for a program centered on outdoor activities. In the morning, everyone does yoga and meditation, followed by morning service. The rest of the day is broken up into waterfront activities, arts and crafts, and games. At night families sing and talk around the campfire.
Family Retreat at Insight Meditation Center
1230 Pleasant Street, Barre, MA 01005, (508) 355-4378.
From July 31 to August 5, parents and children can come together for Family Retreat, a relaxed program whose aim is to integrate meditation and family life. Children are offered camp activities while parents practice meditation. Older children can practice with their parents if they like. Through a rotation system, parents and volunteers share childcare responsibilities.
Family Week at Omega Institute
Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, 260 Lake Drive, Rhinebeck, NY 12572, (800) 944-1001 to register. August 11-15.
Omega’s twelve-year-old family camp is designed to give “families a unique balance of time together and time apart” through a combination of organized workshops and family activities. The workshops meet in the mornings and on alternate afternoons. For adults, the activities range from “Your Personal Yoga Program” to “Stepping into the Mystery: From Separation to Union.” The children’s workshops incorporate music, art, and imagination; “Little Forest People” explores Omega’s surroundings; “The Adventure Game Theater” combines roleplaying and problem solving.
Green Gulch Farm
1601 Shoreline Highway, Sausalito, CA 94965. To register, call (415) 383-3134.
Green Gulch Farm has a long tradition of activities for children and families. No formal family camp is offered this summer, but a series of planned events will celebrate mindfulness, the natural world, and family life. Among the events are the “Young People’s Lecture and Program” and “Monarchs of Mindfulness: Gardening for Butterflies.” Perfect for kids age six and older, the “Voice of the Watershed” series is a collaboration between Green Gulch and Muir Woods National Monument. Or celebrate “Interdependence Day,” the Sunday after the Fourth of July, an afternoon dedicated to enjoying the earth and her gifts.
Third Annual Family Retreat at Camp Albemarle, VA
Contact Fred Eppsteiner, 99 North Street, Naples, FL 34108, for more information and registration. June 13-18.
This retreat follows the tradition of programs at Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Plum Village” in southern France. Sitting and walking meditation are the main activities, along with swimming, singing and storytelling around the campfire. Children and parents come together for dharma talks, which begin with an address to the children, who then leave for art activities and games.
Young Adults Retreat at Insight Meditation Center
1230 Pleasant Street, Barre, MA 01005, (508) 355-4378. June 25-29.
Unlike the programs listed above, this one is more retreat than camp. Limited to forty young people (ages 13-19), this is an introductory meditation retreat that includes half-hour sitting and walking meditation periods, discussions, stories, and free time. The program aims to “allow young adults to discover, develop, and value their natural spirituality with a tremendous amount of support” in a structured environment.
Leaving Home and Becoming Homeless
Gampo Abbey, Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, B0E 2P0 Canada, (902) 224-2752. August 1-28.
This month-long program led by Pema Chodron is for serious-minded 17- to 25-year-old practitioners. During the first week, participants will take refuge vows, a prerequisite for the Five Precepts they must take in order to participate in the program. Daily activities include meditation, teaching, private interviews, and discussion. The program is modeled on the Buddhist tradition whereby a young person leaves home and lives in monastic setting for a brief period before becoming an adult.
Compiled by Patricia Duffett